Animals can adjust their behaviour according to previous experience gained during foraging. In parasitoids, experience plays a key role in host location, a hierarchical process in which air-borne and substrate-borne semiochemicals are used to find hosts. In nature, chemical traces deposited by herbivore hosts when walking on the plant are adsorbed by leaf surfaces and perceived as substrate-borne semiochemicals by parasitoids. Chemical traces left on cabbage leaves by adults of the harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica) induce an innate arrestment response in the egg parasitoid Trissolcus brochymenae characterized by an intense searching behaviour on host-contaminated areas. Here we investigated whether the T. brochymenae response to host walking traces left on leaf surfaces is affected by previous experience in the context of parasitoid foraging behaviour. We found that: 1) an unrewarded experience (successive encounters with host-contaminated areas without successful oviposition) decreased the intensity of the parasitoid response; 2) a rewarded experience (successful oviposition) acted as a reinforcing stimulus; 3) the elapsed time between two consecutive unrewarded events affected the parasitoid response in a host-gender specific manner. The ecological role of these results to the host location process of egg parasitoids is discussed.
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